If you listen to the news, you would think that our community is the least responsible when it comes to safe sex practices and unwanted pregnancies, but that’s actually false. We’re not the worst, by far, and lots of progress has been made.  

Nationally, the teen pregnancy rate is down 40 percent and the teen birth rate is down one-third among all racial and ethnic groups, but progress has been most impressive in the African-American community. Among Black teens, the pregnancy rate has declined a whopping 44 percent and the teen birth rate has declined 47 percent. That’s tremendous news! That said, there’s still work to be done. It’s still true that 50 percent of all African-American girls in the U.S. will get pregnant at least once before their 20th birthday.

ESSENCE teamed up with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy for an unprecedented survey of 1,500 black youths, ages 13-21, to better understand their attitudes on sex, dating, relationships, and the media, to look at how this affects their decisions.

Many of the results were alarming and require immediate action on the part of parents of Black children in America. For instance, although 9 out of 10 kids say they don’t want to get pregnant, 45 percent say they use birth control inconsistently. Nearly half of those surveyed who’ve had sex admit that they felt pressure to go further than they wanted to and 48 percent admit to having lied to get out of an comfortable sexual situation.

The media isn’t offering any alternatives to these unsettling statistics, the survey revealed. Seven out of 10 of the youth surveyed feel the TV shows and movies they watch portray them as sexually aggressive and deviant, and less than 18 percent believe they actually see a true reflection of themselves on screen.

Parents can help to put an end to these troubling statistics, if they put in the effort that’s needed to educate and communicate with our children now. The survey reveals that parental influences are the strongest chance we have at reaching younger teens (ages 13-15). Remember that your kids want to hear from you. Sixty-seven percent of teens felt if more teens were open to talking with their parents about sex, and could, there would be less teen pregnancy.

How do you communicate with your children about sex?

For more information on how to approach sex with teens and results from this survey, pick up the October issue of ESSENCE, on stands now.